There’s a new club on campus for every Harry Potter fan that’s ever dreamed of catching the Golden Snitch.
Twice a week, the 18 members of the UR Quidditch club meet on the Westhampton Green to practice the sport J.K. Rowling created for the wizards in her Harry Potter novels. But without the aid of magic, the team had to adjust the rules, said sophomore president Jessie Kelley.
In the magical version, each team’s seven players fly on brooms over the field. Three seekers try to score by throwing balls, called Quaffles, through hoops, and a keeper tries to block them. Two beaters use bats to hit balls, called Bludgers, at the other team’s players. The seeker’s job is to catch the Snitch – a winged ball that darts around the field – and the game continues until a seeker catches it.
In the books, each goal is worth 10 points and catching the Snitch is 150 points, but when Muggles – Rowling’s term for non-wizards – play Quidditch, the goals are still worth 10 points but catching the Snitch is worth only 50 points.
In the Muggle version, the team members hold their brooms between their legs and run instead of fly. The Quaffle is a volleyball and the goals are hula-hoops taped to PVC pipes.
Instead of batting potentially harmful Bludgers, beaters throw dodgeballs, Kelley said. The players they hit have to drop their brooms, run around the goalpost and come back to their brooms before they can resume play. To solve the problem of not having a ball that flies, Kelley said, there is an eighth player to fulfill the role of the Snitch.
“The Snitch is usually a cross country person or someone who just enjoys running,” Kelley said. “They’re pretty limitless actually. They can do pretty much anything to avoid being caught, like cartwheels.
“They don’t have to stay on the field. To catch the Snitch, you have to grab the tennis ball that’s inside a sock that’s tucked into the Snitch’s waistband, kind of like flag football.”
Kelley had the idea to start the club during the summer, she said. She saw a link to the official rules of Muggle Quidditch at another college and posted it on Facebook. She found 10 interested members and a faculty adviser – journalism professor Tom Mullen – and got permission from Student Activities to make UR Quidditch a provisional club.
To make the club a recognized campus organization, Kelley will need to create a list of by laws for the club, according to Max Vest, the director of Student Activities. She will then have to make a presentation to the Student Development Committee, a group of about 15 students and faculty, Vest said.
If the committee approves her proposal, Vest will submit its recommendation to the faculty two weeks before one of its four annual meetings. The next faculty meeting is on Dec. 10, according to the Office of the Provost’s page on the University of Richmond Web site.
In the meantime, the team has started practices, and Kelley said she was pleased with the turnout so far. Seven of the members are sophomores and 11 are freshmen. Kelley said she wasn’t going to cut anyone from the team and would use as many subs as possible.
“When it comes time for us to have a game we’re going to look primarily at the attendance records,” Kelley said. “Those people who have shown that they’re really interested and committed to the team, then they’re going to get a little bit of a priority.”
There are three other teams in Virginia, Kelley said – Virginia Commonwealth University, the College of William & Mary and Old Dominion University. Kelley and sophomore Jeff Hunt, the vice president, said they would eventually like to see all four teams play in a tournament.
The team will play its first game at VCU on Sunday, Oct. 18. Hunt said he wanted to play VCU right before it competes in the third-annual Quidditch World Cup, held at Middlebury College in Vermont on Oct. 25.
“We definitely need more practice,” Hunt said, “because we would like to beat VCU the first time we play them and VCU’s had a team for two years so they’ve done a lot more.”
The team’s Sunday practices are intra-squad scrimmages, Kelley said. She is trying to find a day and time during the week for the team’s second practice, which she said would be shorter, focused on practicing the basics through drills.
Though Hunt said the team had gotten some weird looks from other students during its practices, the members have enjoyed their first few weeks together. Kelley said she had wanted to start the club because it was unique.
“I played club field hockey last year,” she said. “It was fun, but I kind of wanted something different.”
Sophomore Tim Wiles said jokingly that UR Quidditch had changed his life.
“Before – I hate to say this – but I spent my weekends alone in my room watching episodes of Arrested Development,” he said. “Now I can enjoy life to its fullest here on the Westhampton Green, sitting around throwing the Quaffle, beating the Bludger, catching the Snitch.”
“It’s a great time and I just thank myself that I joined the Quidditch team.”
Contact staff writer Barrett Neale at firstname.lastname@example.org